- Dec 2021
When archaeologistsundertake balanced appraisals of hunter-gatherer burials from thePalaeolithic, they find high frequencies of health-related disabilities –but also surprisingly high levels of care until the time of death (andbeyond, since some of these funerals were remarkably lavish).16
- Formicola, Vincenzo. 2007. ‘From the Sungir children to the Romito dwarf: aspects of the Upper Palaeolithic funerary landscape.’ Current Anthropology 48: 446–53.
It will require some investigation, but on it's face this reference to Formicola seems to be about a small number of cases and doesn't point to or back up their claim about high frequencies of societal care and support. Where is their evidence within the archaeological record.
Romito 2 is the 10,000-year-old burial of a male with a raregenetic disorder (acromesomelic dysplasia): a severe type ofdwarfism, which in life would have rendered him both anomalous inhis community and unable to participate in the kind of high-altitudehunting that was necessary for their survival. Studies of hispathology show that, despite generally poor levels of health andnutrition, that same community of hunter-gatherers still took pains tosupport this individual through infancy and into early adulthood,granting him the same share of meat as everyone else, andultimately according him a careful, sheltered burial.15
- Tilley, Lorna. 2015. ‘Accommodating difference in the prehistoric past: revisiting the case of Romito 2 from a bioarchaeology of care perspective.’ International Journal of Paleopathology 8: 64–74.
In a case like this what might have been the reasons for keeping and helping such an individual?
In an oral society, it's possible that despite his potential physical disabilities for hunting that he may have been an above-average store of knowledge from a memory perspective, thus making him potentially even more valuable to his society.
But ifall we’re doing is cherry-picking, we could just as easily have chosenthe much earlier burial known to archaeologists as Romito 2 (afterthe Calabrian rock-shelter where it was found). Let’s take a momentto consider what it would mean if we did this.
Keep in mind here that these are only singular examples they're talking about amongst millions of data points that we don't have.